The New York Islanders have been struggling to score, and Josh Bailey’s mediocre season is a major reason why.
The Islanders have a great defense and good goaltending, but they saw their season begin to spiral out of control because of a lack of scoring. That’s why they went out and traded for Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline and then immediately locked him up to a long-term deal.
When anyone who is familiar with the Islanders’ play this year thinks of the team’s inability to put up points, Bailey is one of the first names that pops up. Bailey is home-grown: he was drafted by the Islanders in 2008 and has spent his 12-year career on Long Island. He signed a six-year contract extension in February 2018 during the best year of his career. That season, Bailey put up 71 points (18 goals, 53 assists) in 76 games.
Bailey has been unable to even come close to posting those numbers since and it’s unlikely that he’ll ever have a better season. In 68 games played this season, Bailey has scored 14 goals and notched 29 assists, good for 43 points. He may be able to set or tie his career-high in goals (he’s only four away from matching his 18 goals that he scored in 2017-2018) whenever the season does resume. Even so, Bailey’s impact this year has been minimal.
He’s proven that he’s incapable of being a driving force when he’s on the ice and is a player who must be surrounded by talent in order to produce. He simply can’t be “the guy” on a line. Bailey has played on a various number of lines throughout the season because he hasn’t been able to consistently produce with any specific group of players. Because of this, his ability to be a top-six forward on the team has come into question.
If the Islanders hope to be serious and get back into a playoff spot when play resumes, they’re going to need more from their 30-year-old winger. In order get him going, it may be in the team’s best interest to move him down to the third line at least semi-permanently to play alongside Pageau. Even though Pageau has only played seven games with the Islanders and has scored two goals over that span, he is second in goals behind Brock Nelson, who has 26, with 24.
Pageau generates a great deal of offense, which is why the Islanders were so eager to acquire and secure him long-term. Plus, Pageau is currently the Islanders’ third-line center. If head coach Barry Trotz decides to pair Bailey with Pageau, Bailey won’t be the center of attention on that line, will be playing with a very productive line mate, and won’t feel the pressure that top-six forwards experience.
The Isles are especially going to want to get Bailey going if they make the playoffs. Bailey was instrumental for the team last year, notching six points (four goals and two assists) in eight playoff games.
The idea of packaging Bailey and trading him for a younger, more offensively productive forward isn’t new, either. Bailey will be 31 years old in October and the idea of him getting better is difficult to fathom. He’s become a fan-favorite but if he stagnates and continues to be unable to produce, the Islanders may be better off moving him. For these reasons, Bailey will be an Islander worth keeping an eye on when the season resumes.